Sarah E. Ladd. I’d never heard of her. I know, I know. Shoot me now. Do you know how many awesome Christian fiction authors there are out there? I can’t know them all. Kind of wish I could, though. Wouldn’t that be cool?
Still, I promised myself I’d try out new authors this year—books that I didn’t know if I’d like even. I wanted to stretch myself.
To that purpose, I’ve added several books to my list that didn’t quite live up to expectations. While I’ve not had any, “EW! That was horrible” experiences, I have had a few that just weren’t amazing like I’d hoped.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’d decided on requesting a review copy of The Governess of Penwythe Hall the moment I saw the gorgeous cover. Then I prayed it wouldn’t be too sappy. I mean, let’s be real. That cover? It looks sappy. I could almost see a few swoons, a couple of fluttering lashes, gasped declarations of undying love and all that gag-worthy nonsense.
Just keepin’ it real, folks.
But then I saw the author. Sarah. E. Ladd. I liked her name. A nice, solid name. Not only that, but I did not have the inexplicable desire to change her name to Susan like I do another author I could mention.
I signed up and waited for the book to arrive. That was a couple of months ago. Last week, I picked it up in preparation for this post.
Then I did something really stupid.
It’s something I almost never do, but I didn’t want to write the next scene on the docket, so I dashed over to Amazon and read the reviews. My heart sank. Hackneyed storyline, weak faith elements, not up to the author’s standard…
What had I gotten myself into?
Still, a book about a governess was sure to have children in it, and children are fun creatures to read about. I dove into The Governess of Penwythe Hall—with a clothespin in hand in case the cloyingly sweet scent of romance threatened to overcome me.
Note: links may be affiliate links that provide me with a small commission at no extra expense to you. Additionally, I requested a review copy of this book and chose to share what I thought of it.
Just Who Is The True Apple of This Governess’s Eye?
I’ll just state it straight off. The reviews about The Governess of Penwythe Hall that I referenced were, in my opinion, too harsh and inaccurate both. Let’s start with story, shall we?
The plot does have elements we’ve seen before. I mean, Cornwall. Smuggling. Duh. But what Sarah Ladd did was give us that trope with a new, fresh twist on it. She gave us a widow, five motherless and fatherless children who are not her own, the need to stay away from Cornwall and the definite need to go, too.
With just enough misdirections, the story moves along at what seems like a steady pace, but then all of a sudden, you realize it’s whizzed by, too. I don’t know if it was intentional, but it was cool. Not once did I want to put the book down.
Not once did it feel rushed or hurried, slow or draggy.
Characters are who you expect them to be on the one hand, and on the other, they all surprise you with something. No one is too perfect and yet in that imperfection, the characters blend perfectly.
One of the things I loved most was that the author didn’t blur the lines between good and evil. She showed how evil could be unintentional or even coerced, but never did she excuse it away. Loved that.
Lately, it seems like authors want everything to be a blend of misunderstood and overly zealous instead of right or wrong. Some things are just wrong—even when our hero does it. And that’s okay as long as we don’t leave the impression it’s okay to do what isn’t okay!
Let’s talk faith now.
The author’s spiritual lessons were subtle at times, but always deep and meaningful. The governess’s faith grows as part of her trials. She tries to pray more, is mentored by a sister, takes comfort in her sister’s words. No, there are no sermons. You won’t find long homilies disguised as internal monologue or soliloquy.
Instead, sincere faith grows slowly and sincerely throughout the book. At the end, without the author telling us so, we can see how she wove a gentle but steel thread of faith through the story to hold the characters up through a harrowing ordeal.
Oh, I hope all of Ms. Ladd’s books have romance like The Governess of Penwythe Hall—it’s my kind of romance. It’s the slow, building of trust and friendship without all the hearts and flowers and unicorn rainbows plastered everywhere. It’s real, honest, and true. The characters don’t need to have three pages of purple prosy protestations of love and devotion, because their actions up to that revelation of feelings demonstrated the true states of their hearts.
And I think that’s just perfectly beautiful.
No, I didn’t know what to expect when I requested the review copy of The Governess of Penwythe Hall, but I know what to expect now.
An agonizing nine-month wait for the birth of the next book in the series, The Thief of Lanwyn Manor
Oh, and I think we can all assume that Jac is definitely the true apple of Delia’s eye… but I think they both have an extra soft spot for Sophie.
Not recommended for those who love romance that causes bloomers to quiver, faith that is tattooed on the characters’ foreheads, and such out of the ordinary storylines that they could never have happened.
However, if you love Regency romance, mild suspense, sincere, genuine faith you want to learn from, and people who feel so real you could almost see them step out of the page and live out their roles right there in front of you–if you love those things, this book is for you.
A similarly well done Regency book you might like while waiting for the next book in this series is Midnight on the River Grey.